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Crayford children research WW1 soldier who met the Queen

PUBLISHED: 10:23 10 November 2011

Private William White, whose grave became a focal point for relatives of soldiers killed in the Great War

Private William White, whose grave became a focal point for relatives of soldiers killed in the Great War

Archant

Primary school children have been awarded £39,5000 to delve into the life of a First World War private, who was one of the first British soldiers to be buried at home, where he was given a military funeral in Crayford, with a wreath sent by Queen Mary.

William White, 23, a private in the First World War with the The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), who died in 1916, received a full military funeral in Crayford, complete with a Union Jack-draped coffin, a procession, the firing of three volleys and a wreath sent from Queen Mary, whom he met whilst he was in hospital.

He was one of the first soldiers who died in the Great War to be buried at home, becoming known as the “Unknown Warrior”, with his grave at St Paulinus church in Perry Street, Crayford, becoming a focal point for grieving relatives whose fallen soldiers were buried near battlegrounds overseas.

Now primary schools children from St Paulinus School in Iron Mill Lane and St Joseph in Old Road, Crayford, are taking part in a project about Private White which included a trip to Westminster Abbey on Monday (7) to see its Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which contains the body of a soldier who died in France, buried in the Abbey on November 11, 1920.

St Paulinus headteacher Marilyn Davey said: “They have learnt so much about the Great War. The school has a memorial to 67 former pupils who died in the First World War. The children researched the people on the memorial and one of the first people they saw was William White and then they went to see his grave at St Paulinus Church. His parents lived locally in Star Hill. He became one of the first soldiers to be buried at home. He was injured in the war and he met Queen Mary whilst he was in hospital. He must have made an impression on her as she sent a wreath to the funeral.”

The project, which received £39,500 from the Bexley Heritage Lottery Fund on April 6 to pay for workbooks and visits to the National Army Museum in Chelsea, will culminate in a musical performed by the children called ‘Chalky’ the Crayford Swallow at the church hall in Manor Road. Invited parents and residents will also be shown a 15-minute animation about the Private created by the children.

As part of the project, the Dartford Quilters made a commemorative quilt which will be hung in the church tomorrow (11).

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